“An Open Letter Concerning Do-It-Yourself Users of Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation”

“As clinicians and scientists who study noninvasive brain stimulation, we share a common interest with do-it-yourself (DIY) users, namely administering transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) to improve brain function. Evidence suggests that DIY users reference the scientific literature to guide their use of tDCS, including published ethical and safety standards. However, as discussed at a recent Institute of Medicine Workshop, there is much about noninvasive brain stimulation in general, and tDCS in particular, that remains unknown. Whereas some risks, such as burns to the skin and complications resulting from electrical equipment failures, are well recognized, other problematic issues may not be immediately apparent. We perceive an ethical obligation to draw the attention of both professionals and DIY users to some of these issues”

  • Stimulation affects more of the brain than a user may think
  • Stimulation interacts with ongoing brain activity, so what a user does during tDCS changes tDCS effects
  • Enhancement of some cognitive abilities may come at the cost of others
  • Changes in brain activity (intended or not) may last longer than a user may think
  • Small differences in tDCS parameters can have a big effect
  • tDCS effects are highly variable across different people
  • The risk/benefit ratio is different for treating diseases versus enhancing function


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  • Last modified: 2016-07-24 11:07
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